JOY to the world???

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…” —Isaiah 9:6a

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. Even the world around us seems to be a little kinder & a bit more thoughtful. Yet I am also aware that a very real part of the Christmas story is remembering how King Herod was nervous about the rumors that there was a baby king out there somewhere, so he ordered that any baby boy be killed immediately. And hundreds of mothers and fathers found their joy over new life turned into the depths of despair and grief over fresh pain. Christmas wasn’t joyful for them. (Matthew 2:16-18)

This year, even as our family celebrates Christmas with Joshua who is growing more excited every day, we also feel the sting of pain as we miss loved ones who’ve died in the past few years. For me, this will be the first year without my mom.

Many others have had these same feelings we’re experiencing. Christmas isn’t the same anymore because a husband, a wife, a parent, a child, or even a close friend is gone now and the holiday is now a stark reminder of what is missing in our lives. We miss our loved ones. We’re not sure if we even want to decorate or celebrate or even go to church… because it hurts too much. Can we bear that much pain? Do we have to? What do we do? How can we walk through this time of joy and peace, when we feel neither? What do we do about the loneliness? What about the questions and the doubts?

As Christians, we turn to the Bible, where we read: “My help comes from the Lord.” (Psalm 121:2)

But how can that help come? In the times of grief and sorrow, it may be nice to hear how good God is, and how helpful He can be, but deep down, we need to know how He’s going to help us!

First, we can expect to find God’s help as we go to Him in prayer. Jeremiah 29:13-14 reminds us that if we seek God, we WILL find Him. If we want to know His help and His comfort, we have only to ask & He will be with us. In fact, that’s what it means when we call Jesus, Emmanuel: “God Is With Us.”

Secondly, we can expect to find God’s help through the words He’s already spoken… in the Bible. For it is in the Bible that we read words like these:
“He heals the brokenhearted & binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me…” (Psalm 23:4)
“I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord: he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26)

The third way we can expect to find God’s help is through his people. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are expected to “rejoice with those that rejoice & weep with those that weep…” (Romans 12:15). God, through his people, weeps with us, even as we grieve… As we surround ourselves with friends and family, even though it might be painful. As we continue to celebrate important times, with important people. As we talk together and weep together about our loved ones, our memories, our doubts, our fears, and our feelings. And a funny thing will begin to happen as we remember together, and weep together, and walk through our grief together… the loneliness will begin to heal and the weeping will eventually turn to rejoicing.

This year, a part of the message of Christmas, for me at least, is a fresh reminder that God wants to be with us… If we’ll let Him. We need to intentionally surround ourselves with God’s people, His Word, and with prayer… For “unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…” and He is Emmanuel… God with Us!

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